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ICC seeks Netanyahu’s arrest for alleged war crimes

'Outrageous decision' by ICC

Source: Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel and the US have reacted with outrage to a move to arrest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for alleged war crimes in Gaza, such as the starvation of civilians and wilful killing.

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan has requested an arrest warrant for Netanyahu as well as Israel’s defence minister Yoav Gallant, and three Hamas leaders.

In a dramatic escalation seven months into the war, Khan said he had reasonable grounds to believe that all “bear criminal responsibility” for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Khan said it was time “to prove, tangibly, that the lives of all human beings have equal value”.

Netanyahu and his defence chief have overseen Israel’s offensive against Hamas in Gaza since the Palestinian militant group’s deadly October 7 raid on Israel.

Khan has also applied for arrest warrants for Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar; Mohammed Al-Masri, the commander-in-chief of the military wing of Hamas who is widely known as Deif; and Ismail Haniyeh, head of the group’s political bureau.

It will be up to a panel of pre-trial judges to determine whether the evidence supports the issuing of arrest warrants, which could reportedly take weeks or months.

The court, however, has no means to enforce arrest warrants and its investigation into the Gaza war has long been opposed by the US and Israel.

Israel and Palestinian leaders have previously dismissed allegations of committing war crimes.

The allegations against Netanyahu and Gallant include bearing responsibility for the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, wilfully causing great suffering and wilful killing or murder as a war crime.

The Hamas leaders face allegations of bearing responsibility for crimes including extermination and murder, the taking of hostages, torture, rape and other acts of sexual violence.

“Now, more than ever, we must collectively demonstrate that international humanitarian law, the foundational baseline for human conduct during conflict, applies to all individuals and applies equally across the situations addressed by my office and the court,” Khan said.

US President Joe Biden said the move to arrest Netanyahu was “outrageous”.

“Let me be clear: whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence – none – between Israel and Hamas,” he said.

“We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security.”

Netanyahu said has rejected “with disgust” The Hague prosecutor’s comparison between Israel and the “mass murderers of Hamas”.

He called the move “absurd” and “antisemitic”.

“With what audacity do you compare Hamas that murdered, burned, butchered, decapitated, raped and kidnapped our brothers and sisters, and the IDF soldiers fighting a just war.”

Several Israeli ministers and Palestinian representatives denounced the prosecutor’s decision.

“Drawing parallels between the leaders of a democratic country determined to defend itself from despicable terror to leaders of a blood-thirsty terror organisation (Hamas) is a deep distortion of justice and blatant moral bankruptcy,” Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz said.

Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said the prosecutor’s decision to request warrants for the three Hamas leaders “equates the victim with the executioner”.

Israel

A destroyed neighbourhood in Gaza after Israeli bombardment. Photo: Getty

The ICC is the world’s first permanent international war crimes court.

It 124 member states are obliged to immediately arrest the wanted person if they are on a member state’s territory but the court has no means to enforce arrest warrants.

Israel and its main ally the US are not members of the ICC, along with China and Russia.

At least 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war in Gaza, according to the enclave’s health ministry, and aid agencies have also warned of widespread hunger and dire shortages of fuel and medical supplies.

Some 1200 people were killed and more than 250 taken hostage in the Hamas-led October 7 rampage, according to Israeli tallies.

-with AAP

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